Local Miss America swimsuit competition champ speaks her mind about pageant's changes
CINCINNATI (WRKC) - Big changes are in store for an American institution: The Miss America Pageant.
On Tuesday morning, the new leadership of Miss America announced it will no longer hold a swimsuit or evening gown competitions. The changes are meant to bring the competition “into the 21st century”.
But, not everyone is ready.
After 97 years, the pageant that started as an Atlantic City promotion using bathing beauties, Miss America said “bye bye bikini”.
“These are tough decisions to make, but we really understood we had to move this into the 21st century. We really want to take away the stereotypical part of the competition like the swimsuit and being judge by outward physical appearance,” said Gretchen Carlson, who took over as chairwoman of the Miss America board in December.
Carlson says Miss America will become a competition, not a pageant, designed to empower women, not put their bodies on display.
“I have to say I'm very disappointed,” said 20-year-old Alice Magoto, who was Miss Ohio 2016 and won the swimsuit competition at the Miss America pageant.
She says the swimsuit and evening gown competitions are not about showing off, but about building confidence. She struggled with body image issues as a teenager.
“Winning a preliminary was such a huge reward for me and I was the first Miss Ohio in like 30 years to take home the swimsuit preliminary so it was also a big deal for Ohio,” said Magoto.
It also won her a cash prize.
“It paid for my computer, for college [laughs]. Yeah, it was awesome,” said Magoto.
It may have been awesome for her, but she realizes the Miss America pageant may need to change and become more inclusive.
“I think I like the rebranding side of Miss America and sort of making it more modern. That's something I'm really excited about. But taking away the swimsuit competition… I'm really disappointed,” said Magoto.
Gretchen Carlson says it's just time to rethink Miss America.
“We won't be judging on what they are actually wearing. We will be judging what comes out of their mouths which is the substance of the person and the goals they have in life and the careers they want to achieve,” said Carlson.
Gretchen Carlson took over the organization in December after emails surfaced that showed Miss America management disparaging some contestants' weight and sex lives.
The organization is now led entirely by women: President and CEO, chairwoman of the board and chairwoman of the foundation are all former Miss Americas.
Alice Magoto is a Seton High School grad and student at the University of Cincinnati.
She won enough scholarship money as Miss Ohio to pay for a full year of college.